Found this interesting account today, titled: This is how North Korean quality restaurants entertain foreign guests! It's a series of photos and commentary on what really matters--what's the food like in North Korea? Rough translation:
North Korea is the same as we were before the 1980s; the standards for receiving foreign and domestic guests are completely different. All of their restaurants are state-run, so if we don't eat at a quality restaurant then it's a special banquet room, and they're all good local restaurants. The food can't compare to China, but it's very special treatment in the North Korean context. It can't be called really tasty, but getting your fill isn't a problem.
The first evening they arranged for us to eat at a 4-star restaurant in Pyongyang, the Western Peak. Eight or nine people to a table. When we got there they brought small dishes of chicken, tofu, pumpkin and beef, three dishes of each. That made it look like there was a lot, but there were really only four kinds of food. But each table had two bottles of beer, which was more than we had expected. After that each meal had beer, which is not often the case when taking tours in other countries.
A Kaesong "royal banquet" -- the tableware is very pretty.
The second day we went to Kaesong, where we had lunch at a famous Koryo cuisine restaurant. We were served an ancient imperial banquet, and the tableware here was beautiful. In front of each guest was a perfectly arranged set of eight brilliantly polished brass bowls...Waitresses dressed in traditional clothing poured us each a glass of millet wine and removed the lids from the dishes to reveal eight different kinds of pickled vegetables.
The shops were fairly well stocked, but are mostly for foreigners. They have a ration system, as we used to have in China. If you don't have enough grain you can get more on the black market. But we heard it is many times more expensive. It looks like as long as you have money you can take care of food and shelter. But here in North Korea, where the average monthly salary is 90 RMB, how many people can really fill their bellies?
Selected comments from BBS readers:
Why is there such a huge difference between North and South Korea? I can't figure it out!
Because North Korea is like China -- communist.
Can you tell us when you took these?
I hope the two countries can reunite. They're one family after all. Mr. Kim Jung-il, please consider it.
It looks poor.
It's a typical socialist country.
I wonder how people would have felt if they had seen these pictures when they were all shouting, "Socialism is great!"
You must have been watching too many South Korean teledramas! South Korea would swallow up North Korea, and our compatriots in northeastern China would be living under the sights of American rifles.
You think he'd unite? Old Kim wouldn't give it up. North Korean people are starving to death and he still lives like an emperor!! Just like those years for us with Comrade Mao, who was going around saying he didn't want a personality cult, didn't want anything special, and yet he was the grandfather of it all!! Even emperors didn't live the way he did. Really, I bet that in the Qing dynasty ordinary people dared to say what they wanted about the emperor. But during Mao's time I guess you didn't even dare say anything to your mother!!...